Each year, the Centre provides volunteering opportunities through its Community Service Learning (CSL) program in the National Capital Region. Students opting for a CSL placement have the opportunity to test their skills, develop their abilities and make the link between theory and practice, all while contributing to their community. These volunteer hours are recorded in their Co-Curricular Record (CCR).
How Community Service Learning can lead to sustainability
Given her career in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility, Dorra Jlouli was a natural to teach her first course at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management in the fall of 2017. In light of her genuine commitment to sustainable development and citizen involvement in environmentalism, she was eager to integrate community service learning into her course on leadership, strategy and sustainability (ADM4717). One of the primary goals of the course was to give students a chance to work on a group project involving sustainable development; consequently, Dorra Jlouli was quick to encourage them to select community engagement learning at the start of the semester, convinced that the projects proposed by the University of Ottawa’s Office of Sustainability would provide them with unique opportunities to learn by doing. Moreover, the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement provided the ideal framework for students to learn, as well as official recognition for their contributions towards the campus’s overall goal of becoming “greener”.
In September, two teams were formed, each to address a problem at the University of Ottawa. The first was tasked with finding a way to promote sustainable transportation, while the second was charged with optimizing the recycling process for recyclables and waste. With guidance from Dorra Jlouli and the Office of Sustainable Development, the two teams designed innovative, eco-friendly solutions and applied the management, budgeting and marketing skills they had acquired throughout their studies at the Telfer School of Management.
The first team, whose members were Camille Champagne-Roberge, Louise Ifrène, Dorine Jean, Abdul Adam Sylla, Boubacar-Sadio Diallo and Rachid Sadi, looked at how to install charging stations for electric vehicles on campus. The team designed a survey to measure demand, and then reviewed parking areas to see which could accommodate charging stations, which generated positive results. According to Abdul and Louise, this valuable experience will be a real asset once they begin searching for work after graduation. They feel that community service learning gave them a stimulating opportunity to demonstrate their skills in addition to promoting altruism and to expanding their network in the community.
The second team, whose members were Chanel Muhorakeye, Sophie Adjogble, Nia Pryce, Mbwaya Carine Mulumba, Ian Piercy-Douillard and Christopher Allard, proposed ways to transform paper, plastic and organic waste to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. The team researched how such residues are reused in the private sector to select methods that could work at uOttawa. This led the team members to learn more about environmental science and to hone their critical thinking, statistics and financial management skills. Although their volunteer experience was time-consuming and ambitious, both teams felt that it revealed the importance of investing themselves in such projects. By volunteering, the students made a positive difference in their community and took risks that supported their personal development, in addition to expanding their areas of personal interest.
Dorra Jlouli feels that community engagement allows students to develop transferable skills, such as learning strategies, the ability to synthesize data, and critical thinking. It helps them consolidate the knowledge they’ve acquired in their field of studies and raises their awareness of issues and stakeholders at various levels (university, political and private sector). Students get to apply the theories they have learned in class to real-world problems that have genuine implications for the world around them. Volunteering also strengthens the students’ feelings of group solidarity and of adherence to a common cause. Moreover Dorra Jlouli feels that the experiences offered by the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement are un ique and typical of “the University of Ottawa’s responsible commitment to stakeholders, especially students.” In short, working in a volunteer placement is an excellent opportunity for students to hone their skills, apply their knowledge, and build a name for themselves in the community. As suggested by Abdul, Louise, and Sophie, it’s an experience worth trying at least once while studying at the University of Ottawa.
By: Irene Knicely-Coutts
Community service learning and French as a second language: A dream come true for linguistic, cultural and personal growth
Irene Knicely-Coutts, a fourth year uOttawa arts student with a major in French as a second language (FSL) and a minor in geography, began to get involved in her community when she was nine years old, as a monitor at her elementary school library. When she arrived in Ottawa in 2014, she was looking to get involved in her new city. In 2015, she became an FSL tutor at the Bilingualism Centre. Between two university terms, she volunteered at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, whose mission is to promote biodiversity, control invasive species and restore natural habitats in urban spaces. In winter 2017, Irene chose a volunteer placement assisting students with technology, social media and the internet for a new hybrid course, FLS3791, on the same topic. She was responsible for designing a new web application for the public aimed at FSL students.
Irene liked her experience so much that for the fall 2017 term, she chose to get involved as an FSL tutor in an extracurricular program at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School in Barrhaven, while continuing to volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. As a tutor, Irene helped Grade 4 French Immersion students with their French grammar, social sciences and science homework. At the garden, she created a survey on the effectiveness of on-site and online communications strategies regarding the garden’s mission, identification of invasive species, available services and effectiveness of communications methods.
This winter, Irene is both writing articles for the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement and working as a teacher aide for a Grade 4 French Immersion class at Barrhaven Public School. Since starting university, she has chosen the community service learning option five times, along with her extracurricular volunteering.
Irene’s academic and volunteering paths have allowed her to better define her personal and professional interests. Before she became a university FSL tutor, she had thought about doing a PhD and becoming a full-time FSL professor. She discovered instead that she wished to be an elementary school French as a second language teacher. Her volunteer experience has allowed her to improve several skills, such as in communication strategies, critical thinking and leadership. As well, she has overcome obstacles linked to certain diagnosed mental health issues, while improving her soft skills — her ability to deal with strangers, communicate information concisely and manage her emotions in stressful or unpredictable situations.
In addition, learning by immersion through volunteer experiences in a true French-speaking environment is completely different from learning through grammar exercises stripped of context in a classroom. Without interaction with the francophone community, it’s impossible to acquire culturally-based knowledge, such as use of joual (a form of French slang), know-how and social skills. As well, without contact with people, it’s very hard to perfect your accent and learn to speak a second or foreign language fluently.
What the University of Ottawa and Ottawa in general offer is the chance to have this kind of real-world experience outside of classes and work. You can receive consistent feedback from native speakers and work on French pronunciation and sentence structure. In fact, this is a uniquely attractive quality of the University of Ottawa, given Ottawa’s proximity to Gatineau and its importance in Canadian politics as the capital, which must use both official languages.
Irene advises that all anglophones and francophiles who would like to improve their French and second language skills to make the most of community service learning during their studies at uOttawa. It’s an unparalleled experience that can only be offered in Canada’s capital.
By: Irene Knicely-Coutts
What volunteering has given one student
Giving back to the University community in a meaningful way was the most important factor motivating Robert Dwight Matson to start volunteering. The fourth year Faculty of Science (biochemistry) student had heard of the Foot Patrol in first year during Welcome Week. He decided to join, and has been regularly volunteering with the service. He has completed over 300 hours with the Foot Patrol, and says he’s “gained plenty” from it. He also discovered that the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement could help him get his volunteering hours recognized through the Co-curricular Record, which is issued by the Centre.
In second year, he got involved with the Science Students Association and helped organize Welcome Week for new students. “I had such an amazing time in my first week of university,” he says, “that I wanted to aid the first year students in feeling the same experience.” This has been Robert’s most memorable volunteering experience so far. It is all about sharing happy moments with others. “Despite the weather, the first-year students all seemed to enjoy the week, and I can say that I absolutely loved the experience,” he says.
In fall 2017, Robert learned about the Community Service Learning (CSL) program in his Advanced Techniques in Biosciences course. Through it, he completed a placement with the University of Ottawa’s Office of Risk Management. “The supervisor was great, and it was really nice to volunteer in something that is close to the field that I am studying in,” he says.
For Robert, “volunteering is a very rewarding experience.” It helps you learn more about University of Ottawa services, opportunities and resources. It is also an opportunity to meet people from various programs and improve your communication skills. And it goes without saying that gaining experience with community activities and helping building a better society definitely has a positive effect on one’s studies. “Although you may not at first see a benefit to volunteering in your studies, sometimes the benefits come out of nowhere,” he says.
Animal Studies: An exploration of our ethical responsibilities toward animals
A new course in Animal Studies was offered for the first time at the University of Ottawa this fall. The course, which was co-taught by Professor Anne Vallely (Department of Classics and Religious Studies) and Professor Sonia Sikka (Department of Philosophy), introduces students to the wide range of historical and contemporary ways in which humans relate to other living beings, including an exploration of our ethical responsibilities toward animals.
Professor Vallely believes that the creation of this course marks an important development for the University, and she hopes it will lead to a minor in Animal Studies. However, she is also concerned that as the study of animal-related issues moves away from the margins of academic interest to become more mainstream, the field will become over-theorized, depoliticized and disconnected from real animals.
With this concern in mind, she contacted the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement to find ways for her students to engage in firsthand experiential learning by working on practical, animal-related issues. For example, some of her students worked on a project to protect Ottawa’s population of endangered little brown bats, while others worked with the uOttawa Office of Campus Sustainability in researching how to create a bird-friendly campus. “The students who are pursuing CSL placements are benefitting others – human and nonhuman alike – and gaining work-related skills in the process.” Professor Vallely added that “CSL has been an invaluable resource for our class, enabling students to bridge theory and practice in ways that would be impossible in a traditional class setting alone.”
Does your organization, service or Faculty work on an animal-related project or initiative that could benefit from the support of students? Contact the Centre and we will gladly discuss your potential needs and priorities with respect to an animal-related CSL component, or any other CSL course component of interest to the general student population.
CSL – Placement with Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN)
My name is Emilia Macera Deschênes and I study International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. I am currently undertaking a CO-OP placement at the International Development and Research Centre and will be starting fourth-year next term. I chose this field of study largely because of my interest in world cultures and my experience in community work. Given that I am of Peruvian and Canadian descent, I have always been interested in North-South relations and have often compared lifestyles, policies and systems in both countries.
I heard about Community Service Learning (CSL) as a component in a course on international development finance taught by Professor Philippe Régnier. The Michael Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement partnered with CUSO to offer us placements as international finance researchers for a Nicaraguan NGO called Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN). This organization is a network of Nicaraguan women entrepreneurs that aims to assist its members in becoming economically self-sufficient. My team conducted research on diversifying funding sources to support the activities of this network. We wrote a report incorporating the theoretical aspects found in the course and in Canadian development-assistance policies. We also created a database on potential funding sources from the public and private sectors. We then presented our research findings, which were warmly appreciated by the CUSO team.
What I found exceptional about this placement was the possibility of working remotely without having to organize or pay for all the travel and other expenses associated with an international work term. Overall, this placement enriched my academic experience: it deepening my knowledge of the financing of international development by putting theory into practice. I find that knowledge is important but practical know-how is also beneficial, especially for the job market. Above all, this placement helped me develop my sense of initiative and leadership while helping me hone my communication skills. I also learned how to manage several expectations, including those of my team, the course and the partners, by communicating openly with all those involved in the project. As for my career prospects, this placement helped me expand my network, gain a professional reference, and receive credits while boosting my CV. Our team even received a certificate of appreciation from CUSO for conducting this research!
I would like to thank Professor Philippe Régnier for incorporating this CSL component into his course syllabus. I strongly encourage other professors to contact the MJCGCE for more information on the opportunities available to students. The effort invested in creating these partnerships and services pays significant dividends in terms of our academic and career development. I also encourage all students to get involved outside the classroom and to learn about the resources at their disposal. Don`t hesitate to talk to your professors about CSL so that together, you can create new opportunities within your programs!